Miraculous Nature of the Holy Qur’an
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
The Holy Qur’an claims to be the greatest miracle which was vouchsafed to a prophet. It is a miracle the like of which could not be produced even if all men should combine together. This claim to uniqueness was not an after-thought on the Holy Prophet’s part. It was consistently advanced from first to last as an argument of its Divine origin. As early as the fifth year of the Holy Prophet’s mission, when there was no sign of the Qur’an finding acceptance in Arabia, to say nothing of the whole world, the claims to uniqueness were put forward in the clearest words:
“If men and jinn should combine together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like of it though some of them were aiders of other.” (17:88)
Towards the close of the Makka period, when the people had shown themselves to be deaf to all appeals, the same claim was advanced again, reducing the demand to the production of ten chapters like those of the Holy Qur’an:
“Or do they say, he has forged it ? Say, then bring ten forged chapters, like it, and call upon whom you can besides God, if you are truthful.” (11:13)
This was soon followed by the still more forcible claim that human effort could not produce even a single chapter like it:
“Or, do they say, he has forged it ? Say, then bring a chapter like this and invite whom you can besides God, if you are truthful.” (10:38)
After the flight to Madina, when the Holy Prophet came into contact with the Jews who had the books of the prophets with them, the claim to the uniqueness of the Qur’an was still repeated in the same forcible words:
“And if you are in doubt at to that which We have revealed to Our servant then produce a chapter like it, and call on your helpers besides God, if you are truthful.” (2:23)
The golden days of the Arabic poetry were those which immediately preceded the time of the Holy Prophet, yet history bears clear testimony to the fact that the Arabs never attempted to dispute the claim of the Holy Qur’an. Why? Did they not consider this matter sufficiently serious? They no doubt looked upon the Holy Prophet at first as a mere visionary and then as a poet, but they soon began to realize the serious situation. Three, or four years of work had brought to the Holy Prophet’s banner a band of over one hundred devoted followers who, rather than give up their faith in him, had shown their readiness to suffer every torture and every privation, who had left their very country to take shelter in a neighboring land. The opponents of Islam had taken the matter so seriously that, unable to seize the flying Muslims in their pursuit of them, they sent a deputation to persuade the Negus to hand over them to their kinsmen. They had seen how deep-rooted was faith in the hearts of those who had accepted the life-giving message of the Qur’an: they had tried all means to put a stop to the activities of the Holy Prophet; they had persecuted him and his followers; they had put as much pressure as they could on Abu Talib, the Holy Prophet’s uncle, to hand him over to them: they had sent deputations to dissuade the Holy Prophet from speaking against their ancestral religion: and, therefore, if they could silence the Holy Prophet by accepting his challenge to produce a chapter like the Holy Qur’an, they would surely have done it. Being harassed with the question again and again, they made empty boast that, if they pleased, they could say like of it, as it contained nothing but stories of the ancients (8:31): but they knew well that stories could not bring about the transformation which the Qur’an was working the lives of a dead nation, and hence they never made a serious attempt to bring forward anything to answer the challenge of the Qur’an.
The great gift which the Qur’an claimed from first to last as its special privilege was guidance, the purifying of man from the pollution of sin, and making him fulfill the purpose of life by the development of the faculties with which he was endowed. It opens with the statement that the Qur’an offers guidance to humanity to reach the great goal of life: “This Book, there is no doubt in it, is a guidance to t hose who guard against evil” (2:2). It’s purifying was so great that those accepted the message, had their lives entirely transformed. Moreover, its convincing power was simply irresistible. The Arabs had strongly resisted long-sustained and influential Jewish and Christian efforts to give up their idolatry and superstitions, and monotheism had never appealed to them as a nation; but the message of the Qur’an, notwithstanding all the efforts of the leaders to dissuade people from listening to it and with all their scoffing and jeering at it, made quite a different impression. It touched their very souls though, for the sake of their national honour, they would not accept it.
When the 53rd Chapter, which ends with a commandment to prostrate oneself, was recited by the Holy Prophet in an assembly containing Muslims, as well as idolators, even the latter fell down in prostration, with a single exception of Umayya ibn Khalf, who raised some gravel to his forehead. When Abu Bakr recited the Qur’an aloud in the courtyard of his house, which was situated on a public way, the idolators objected and sanctioned Abu Bakr staying at Makka only on condition that he would not recite the Qur’an aloud, because, they said, women and children were carried away by it. On another occasion, when ‘Utba ibn Rabi’ came to the Holy Prophet with a message from the Quraish that, if he desired from speaking ill of their national gods, they were prepared to accept him as their chief and to offer what he desired, the Holy Prophet read out to him the opening verses of the 41st chapter. He was so impressed with the words and was such a changed man that he went back to the Quraish leaders and asked them not to oppose the Holy Prophet, for what he had heard from him was neither poetry, nor magic, nor a soothsayer’s utterance, that his friends had to tell him that he was under the magic spell of Muhammad. ‘Umar went out determined to put an end to the Prophet’s life, but on listening to the first part of the 20th chapter, at his sister’s house, his enmity gave place to devotion, and hatred was changed into admiration. The driving force of the Qur’an was absolutely irresistible. It flowed as a torrent from the mountain-top and carried away everything with it.
In fact, the transformation wrought by the Holy Qur’an is unparalleled in the history of the world, and thus its claim to being unique stands unchallenged today as it did thirteen centuries ago. No other reformer has brought about an entire change in the lives of a whole nation. The Qur’an found the Arabs worshippers of idols, stones, trees, heaps of sand, and yet, within less than a quarter century, the worship of God ruled the whole country, idolatry being wiped out from one to end to the other, it swept away all superstitions and gave in their place the most rational religion that the world could imagine. The Arab who prided himself on his ignorance and, as if by a magician’s wand, became the lover of knowledge, drinking deep at every fountain of learning to which to which he get access. This was the direct effect of the teaching of the Qur’an which not only applied to reason, ever and anon, but declared man’s thirst for knowledge to be insatiable, when it directed the Holy Prophet himself to say: “My Lord! Increase me in knowledge” (23:114):
Not only had the Qur’an swept away the deep vices and barefaced immorality of the Arab; it had also inspired him with a burning desire for the best and noblest deeds in the service of humanity. The burying alive of the daughter, the marriage with a step-mother, and the loose sex relations had given place to equal respect for the offspring, whether male or female, to equal rights of inheritance for father and mother, son and daughter, brother and sister, husband and wife, to the chastest relations of sex and to placing the highest value on sexual morality and the chastity of woman.
Drunkenness, to which Arabia had been addicted from time immemorial, disappeared so entirely that the very goblets and vessels which were used for drinking and keeping wine could no more be found and, greatest of all, from an Arabia, the various elements of which were so constantly at war with one another that the whole country was about to perish, being “on the brink of a pit of fire” (3:102), as the Qur’an so beautifully and tersely puts it, from an Arabia full of these jarring and warring elements, the Qur’an welded out a nation, a united nation full of life and vigour, before whose onward movement the greatest kingdoms of the world crumbled as if they were but toys before the reality of the new faith. No faith ever imparted such a new life to its votaries on such a wide scale – a life affecting all branches of human activity; a transformation of the individual, of the family, of the society, of the nation, of the country; an awakening material as well moral, intellectual as well as spiritual. The Qur’an effected a transformation of humanity from the lowest depths of degradation to the highest pinnacle of civilization within an incredibly short time where centuries of reformation work had proved fruitless. To its unparalleled nature, testimony is borne by the non-Muslim, sometimes anti-Muslim historians. Here are a few instances:
“From time beyond memory Mecca and the whole Peninsula had been steeped in spiritual torpor. The slight and transient influences of Judaism, Christianity, or philosophical enquiry upon the Arab mind had been but as the ruffling here and there of the surface of a quiet lake; all remained still and motionless below. The people were sunk in superstition, cruelty and vice ... Their religion was a gross idolatry; and their faith, the dark superstitious dread of unseen things ... Thirteen years before the Hijra, Mecca lay lifeless in this debased state. What a change had these thirteen years now produced ... Jewish truth had long sounded in the ears of the men of Medina; but it was not until they heard the spirit-stirring strains of the Arabian Prophet that they too awoke from their slumber, and sprang suddenly into a new and earnest life.” (Muir’s Life of Mohammet, ch. VII)
“A more disunited people it would be hard to find, till, suddenly, the miracle took place. A man arose who, by his personality and by his claim to direct Divine guidance, actually brought about the impossible, namely, the union of all these warring factions.” (The Ins and Outs of Mesopatamia, p.99)
“And yet we may truly say that no history can boast of events that strike the imagination in a more lively manner, or can be more surprising in themselves, than those we meet with in the lives of the first Mussalmans: whether we consider the Great Chief, or his ministers, the most illustrious of men, or whether we take an account of the manners of the several countries he conquered; or observe the courage, virtue, and sentiments that equally prevailed among his generals and soldiers.” (The Life of Mohamet by the Count of Bonlainvelliers, p. 5)
“That the best of Arab writers has never succeeded in producing anything equal in merit to the Qur’an itself is not surprising.” (Palmer’s Introduction to English Translation of the Holy Quran, p. iv.)
“Never has a people been led more rapidly to civilization, such as it was, than were the Arabs through Islam.” (New Researches, by H. Hirschfeld, p.5).
“The Qur’an is unapproachable as regards convincing power, eloquence, and even composition.” (Ibid., p.8).
“And to it was also indirectly due the marvelous development of all branches of science in the Moslem world.” (Ibid., p.9).
“It is the one miracle claimed by Muhammad 'his standing miracle' as he called it, and a miracle indeed it is.” (Bosworth Smith’s Life of Muhammad).
“Such then, very briefly, was the condition of the Arabs, social and religious, when, to use an expression of Voltaire, . . . ' the turn of Arabia came '; when the hour had already struck for the most complete, the most sudden and the most extraordinary revolution that had ever come over any nation upon earth.” (Bosworth Smith)
“Here, therefore, its merits as a literary production should perhaps not be measured by some preconceived maxims of subjective and aesthetic taste, but by the effects which it produced in Mohammed’s contemporaries and fellow countrymen. If it spoke so powerfully and convincingly to the hearts of his hearers as to weld hitherto centrifugal and antagonistic elements into one compact and well organized body, animated by ideas far beyond those which had until now ruled the Arabian mind, then its eloquence was perfect, simply because it created a civilized nation out of savage tribes, and shot afresh woof into the old warp of history.” (Dr. Steingass, quoted inn Hughes' Dictionary of Islam, p. 528)